(L-R) Awards host Andrew Ryan; Sharon Xenophontos and Claire Bright, HR managers, Macfarlanes; and Tom Pearson, commercial director, Legal Week

Finalists: Addleshaw Goddard; Ashurst; Bircham Dyson Bell; Bird & Bird; Bond Dickinson; FLEX; Hogan Lovells (highly commended); Pinsent Masons.

Macfarlanes won the human resource innovation award for its introduction of a virtual doctor to help curb absenteeism and give staff better access to medical advice.

With waiting times for GP appointments in the UK often extending for days, and given that Macfarlanes is not large enough to justify hiring its own in-house doctor, the firm’s HR department decided to look for alternative solutions (absenteeism had cost the firm around £400,000 in 2015).

By using the Vdoc service, Macfarlanes staff were able to arrange remote visual consultations with a doctor at a time that was convenient to them. The firm found many employees who used the service had often let minor problems go untreated because of the difficulty of accessing timely medical advice.

Vdoc doctors are usually able to issue a private prescription immediately that can be picked up from a local chemist, giving staff quick and easy access to medication and treatment. If further tests are needed, staff can visit Vdoc’s clinic in Canary Wharf. Each appointment is estimated to save the firm three hours compared with conventional doctor visits.

“The firm’s use of the virtual doctor service shows how it is trying to meet its staff’s needs and it is clearly an innovative, tech-based service,” said a judge.

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